COLUMBUS, Ga. – Buddy Helton, was the owner of the Chevron full service gas station at the corner of Veterans and 13th Street. At the time the story aired, Buddy as on the verge of closing down the business he had run for over three decades.
The rain puddled up in front of Buddy Helton’s gas station. Like anti-freeze under an old car with a leaky radiator hose. Despite the rain, Buddy was out helping customers. Two of his longtime employees are no longer with him. One passed away a short time ago, the other one retired. That helped fuel Buddy’s decision to close the business, but another factor is the way cars are made these days.
“Cars today are fixed better than they used to be. You know, you get a tuneup now about every 100,000 instead of every 10,000. Tires last you 50, 60,000 instead of 10,000.”
Some customers don’t know where they will turn when Buddy closes shop. He told this regular customer she can still give him a call about her car problems, even after he’s closed. Buddy has one of the last remaining full service gas stations in Columbus. He’s been at this location since 1981. Buddy’s outgoing personality has a lot to do with his success.
“I love people. I love to talk to people.”
“I’ve got people come by here for me to make them laugh and make them feel better before they go home.”
Buddy’s service bays sit eerily empty on this dreary day. Among his collector’s items, an old cash register, reminding him of the days when the price of gas was dirt cheap. The wall in Buddy’s office is a collage of newspaper articles, handwritten notes, and photos. Buddy is a huge Alabama fan.
“You going to get a congratulatory letter from Nick Saban? I don’t imagine so. I don’t imagine so. If Coach Bryant were living he just might send me one.”
Buddy has been pumping gas since he was 14 years old. Saying goodbye to this business isn’t going to be easy.
“Are you going to miss it? Sure, you know I will. I’m already missing it already.”
But Buddy says he’ll keep depending on the lord in retirement, just like he’s done on the job.
“I got somebody to lean on, and I’ll lean on Him, and He’ll take me right on through this thing and make do with something better.”
Anyone who knows Buddy will vouch for the fact that, even though he may be retiring, he’s no where close to running out of gas.
Shortly after this story, Buddy closed up shop. Now the old chevron station is nothing but an empty lot.